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Beauty and the Beast – Month 5

Ep.17 – Down to a Sunless Sea – On the whole this episode was just ok. In short, an old flame of Catherine’s who was overbearing and controlling, turns up after several years and wants to reconnect with her before he dies. He’s supposed to be a changed man but slowly we start to see the signs that all is not well and he’s just as bad, in fact much much worse, than he was before. Then it all goes wrong, she gets into trouble and Vincent has to save her again. So, on the whole despite some changes, pretty formulaic. What’s most interesting to me is, long before Vincent and Catherine talk about this man, long before she even mentions it to Vincent, he has been having nightmares, and then waking flashes of the same thing. This vision of being pursued through the woods at night by someone persists and he tries to warn Catherine. In the end it all comes full circle, Catherine does end up running through the woods in terror, just as he saw. They fudge how he knew, but part of me today is thinking, wait, so does that mean that no only does Vincent have a strong empathic link with Catherine, but he’s also having visions of the future? He’s able to see the future? That is pretty cool and I hope the explore this a bit more but I have a feeling they don’t.

Ep. 18 – Fever – Mouse discovers a pirate shop full of treasure under the city. Greed infects the whole of down below and people who had nothing suddenly have the chance to use the treasure to buy new stuff they need but also want, instead of relying on stuff they find, or borrow, or are given.  All of this is focused through Cullen, one of the senior adults on the council who does some pretty nasty things for money, but we also hear about his life before and what made him leave the world above. Like most of them it is a tragic story full of heartache but he is the worst infected. There’s an odd moment when Catherine says it’s a disease from my world, as if the people down below are a different race of people. Not a bad episode, and the best bit about it was probably the cameo of some guy reading a George RR Martin book in a diner. It might even be him for all I know, but I spotted it straight away. A nice episode to get a bit more background on one of the supporting characters but I’m still waiting to find out about Winslow played by the great James Avery.

Ep. 19 – Everything is Everything – In this episode Catherine and Vincent try to help a gypsy boy clear his father’s name who has been wrongfully exiled from his people. Catherine is shown up by a street-wise kid with a mouth on him, but eventually she manages to win him over and prove that she’s a good person who is only trying to help him. The episode is so so and a little predictable, but it’s sweet and touching, and there are some interesting moments such as when the boy first comes face to face with Vincent. He doesn’t freak out, scream and run, but is just curious like most children. Yet again there is an echo of being an outsider, someone different from everyone else in society, living on the fridges and not being accepted.

Ep. 20 – To Reign In Hell – The show has always had more freedom than others. It’s not a cop show, so it is not always the same thing every week in terms of structure. There are recurring themes, being a modern day twist on an old fairy tale, but in general it has a lot more scope for stories than some TV shows. That being said this was by far the weirdest episode yet. Laden with quotes, visual cues to mythology, heck even the title of the episode comes from literature and is quoted and explained by a character in the story, this felt like a completely different story. A giant, yes a real giant who is never explained, kidnaps Catherine to take her down into the underworld, a red and hot and hellish place, where a cast out character now rules. He even wears a mask that makes him resemble the Phantom for cripes sake. So many things going on here, Vincent punting a narrow barge across a river in the underworld, a quest to save a damsel in distress, there was just too much. I felt bewildered and that someone had thrown everything at the wall and most of it had stuck. Also I had to go and open my big mouth a few episodes back about wanting to know more about Winslow. We find out a little more about him and then of course this is his last episode. All in all, a very jumbled and visually exciting episode that generally left me feeling a bit cold this close to the end of the first series.

Ep. 21 – Ozymandias – This episode was more on more familiar ground. Elliot Burch is going to build a giant mega huge tower, because he has a big ego and because he wants to and because he thinks he can do whatever he wants. Unfortunately the deep foundations necessary for the building threaten the top layers of the underworld which mean Vincent and everyone else would have to relocate even deeper and rebuild their lives again. Father is a little bit more dramatic saying it’s the end of their world, but to be fair to him there doesn’t seem to be any sites as suitable as the one they currently live in. Meanwhile Catherine is struggling with mixed emotion about Burch who is both evil and generous and he appears to care for her. Their interactions awaken emotions for both of them and there’s a marriage proposal. The resolution for this episode was quite interesting and unexpected. It also showed how much Catherine was willing to sacrifice for other people, especially Vincent, which is weird given what happens in the last episode.

Ep. 22 – A Happy Life – There’s been no mention of Catherine’s mother up to now, but we quickly learn in the first few minutes that she died when Catherine was young. On the anniversary of her mother’s death Catherine becomes emotional, sees how her friends are getting on with their lives, having families and apparently living the good life and she begins to feel alone, bereft and seeks psychiatric help to unravel and resolve her issues. What follows is a bit jumbled, but essentially Vincent is both the root of her loneliness and the best thing in her life so there’s lots of emotional wrangling before she decides something has to be done and she can’t go on like this. Vincent tells her to walk away from him forever, to go and live her life and be happy and there’s a lot of angst and heartache. Then it turns out her friends who apparently have perfect lives envy her life in the city. In the end Catherine decides she can’t live without Vincent and comes back to the city as she cherishes what she has even if she can’t be with him as a normal couple. Despite what I felt was rather a flat ending to the series that didn’t have a lot of punch there were a few good scenes, such as those between Catherine and her boss Joe. Once again it’s a rare male and female friendship without any romance and some great dialogue which gives a sort of shorthand about their relationship. I had kind of hoped that at the end of this season their relationship would progress a bit more, but apparently we’re not there yet.

Looking back at my comments about the last few episodes, I think the end of season 1 tailed off a bit. However, overall I have been continuously surprised and amazed by this series for many reasons and it has proven to be far better than I remembered with my rose tinted glasses of memory. I am now a proud owner of the whole three season box set so I will continue to watch the rest at some point, but probably at leisure without a self-imposed schedule.

A great bonus I found at the end of watching season 1 was a documentary and a short interview with Ron and Linda, which looked fairly recent in fact, with them talking about the series, favourite episodes, the writers and the style and dialogue of the show. Also, an added bonus which will spur me on to watch the next two seasons is they have done short introductions to certain episodes in series 2 and series 3.

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Beauty and the Beast – Month 4

If you’ve not read the previous posts then this will make no sense at all. But, I’m doing a rewatch of the TV show Beauty and the Beast with CE Murphy. And, much to my surprise, the show is a lot better than I remembered, or rather I was convinced my rose tinted memories would be trashed when the show was dragged into the harsh light and reality of 2014. In reality, the show is still really good today.

Ep. 13 – China Moon – This episode as a whole was quite good, not brilliant, but good. However, it was another Romeo and Juliet story where people from either two different worlds or different sides of the same world, cannot be together despite their feelings, once again reflecting what is happening with Catherine and Vincent. It’s starting to get a little thin now and I think this is the third such version. I’m also at the point where each time they don’t kiss I start to twitch and get close to shouting at the TV. Ok, I already have shouted, but I didn’t this episode, although it was a close call. This time instead of Protestants and Catholics, it’s Chinatown where a woman is marrying a young man to honour her grandfather who owes another man a great debt. Family honour and so on aplenty. Vincent goes bananas and actually kills several people to defend his home but is also shown to be a man of honour. I’ve used that word a lot in this episode but that’s it’s core. I’m hoping for more going forward, although I have a sneaky feeling it will not progress as fast as I would like.

Ep. 14 – The Alchemist – This was an interesting episode exploring a little further what happens to a person who doesn’t fit in or abide by the laws of the underground society. What if their crimes are so severe? What happens to them? A new street drug has ties to the underworld and is traced to a man exiled from the underworld, but he is still living underground, beyond the reaches of their territory. He threatens to reveal the secrets of those living underground if arrested and he’s beyond the borders of Father’s jurisdiction which creates a thorny issue to deal with. The episode itself was pretty good, but the information beneath the surface that they hint at was what really held my attention. The exiled man was one of the founders of the society with Jacob, he came up with the idea of communicating on the pipes and Jacob hints at other things. He also manages to disarm Vincent by hinting that there’s more to his origin than Jacob has told him, being found abandoned outside St Vincent’s hospital. This is the first time someone has said anything about his origin. For most people Vincent is simply different and that’s the end of it, but every time you see his face it’s hard to forget. This episode definitely asks lots of interesting questions but only answers a couple of them. Hopefully more of them will be addressed in the future.

Ep.15 – Temptation – This was a Joe focused episode, so Vincent had very little to do which was fine for a change. It focused on Joe being seduced by a beautiful attorney who was actually using him to delay a case he was due to take to court. It was handled really well and not ham-fisted at all, with him slowly becoming more and more distracted, leaving Catherine to be the bad and point out he’d been acting like a teenager. This episode highlights their friendship and it’s also the first time in years I can remember there being a strong friendship between two leading characters, a man and a woman, that didn’t then lead to a romantic connection later down the line. They’re close friends, she tells him how much she cares for him and only wants what’s best for him, but at no time does she get that look in her eyes or vice versa. For a show that’s coming up on twenty years old, it continues to surprise me, open my eyes to things I’ve apparently forgotten about the show and characters on TV in general, because I just don’t see it very often these days.

Ep.16 – Promises of Someday – This episode was written by George R.R Martin, and in some ways it turned out be a very personal and small story, with wider emotional repercussions. It dealt with the return of a character from Vincent’s past, a boy called Devon whom he grew up with, and one left physically scarred by an incident with an angry Vincent. It also showed Vincent as a boy, and it gave an indication of his age for the first time of being somewhere in his early thirties. Father was painted in a less than favourable light and it showed him to be human, fallible and not the perfect father-figure. I really liked seeing the flashback parts where we saw a young Vincent and hearing Devon talk about how he carried the tunnels and world below with him as he travelled around the world. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but this episode really added more texture and history to the characters of Vincent and Father. It also showed Vincent as less than perfect and that not everyone liked him. Catherine didn’t have as much to do, except act as a sounding board, but it’s good to get a balance between episodes set predominantly above and those below.

 

 

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Beauty and The Beast – Month 1

As previously mentioned I’m doing a rewatch of the original Beauty and The Beast TV series with CE Murphy. Below are my thoughts on the first few episodes.

The Pilot – It’s been long time since I’d watched this, but I still remembered the basics. However, there were actually quite a few things I had forgotten, both major and minor. The episode begins with a title card saying ‘Once upon a time…’ playing into the whole fairytale theme, which initially might make you think it will be akin to a warm and cuddly Disney film, like Enchanted, a film set in modern day. However it really isn’t, what with the murders, the disfiguration, and other very adult themes that are hinted at but never shown. But there is a fairytale feel to it, right down to Catherine vanishing into a spotlight from above that then fades, as if she’s just stepped off a stage.

I’d completely forgotten about Isaac Stubbs, the rough, tough, streetwise New York guy (played by Delroy Lindo no less!) who trains Catherine how to fight. He teaches her to protect herself with NY street fighting, which he describes as nasty, dirty and painful for the attacker. I’d also forgotten that the reason Catherine was attacked in the first place was due to a case of mistaken identity. I also blocked out that Catherine was a fairly spoiled rich girl who, after the attack, leaves her high society life behind and completely changes into someone that wants to help people. I go into more detail but I’ll leave it there for now. Overall I thought it was still an interesting and intriguing pilot, and it barely scrapes the surface of Vincent’s world but hints at so much more.

Terrible Saviour, Ep2 – Despite the obvious dating of the TV show, which is immediately visible through the clothes, cars, technology and even to some degree, the way characters speak, this show continues to impress me for a number of reasons. If there was a big dude in a hood who rode on top of the subway trains, rumours would have started. Someone would have seen him and people talk, and like all good fairy tales, in an age before mobile phones, and therefore a camera in every pocket, before widespread CCTV and instant media messaging, there were urban myths and legends. New York is a big old city that’s been rebuild many times over, so who knows what’s lurking down there under the modern sidewalks and subway tunnels from centuries back. The idea of Vincent’s underworld and a whole other city beneath NY gives it all a lovely rich texture and flavour.

I also like the fact that very early on in the first series they focus on one of the more worrying aspects of Vincent, his bestial nature. He’s a man, but not like any other. He has a wild side and potential ties to a heritage we don’t and may never understand, but you don’t need to quiz a lion to know it’s a powerful and dangerous animal. One look at it will tell you that and to some degree it’s the same with him. This episode carries over threads from the pilot, about Vincent saving Catherine, but in a rage he mauled three men when she was put in serious danger.

I also like the fact that we get to see Isaac Stubbs again, and we learn that Catherine was one of his star pupils. She can take care of herself, but they don’t overplay it, or feel the need to make her show it by throwing people around. It’s there, it’s stated and they move on, no displays of bravado are needed. Other characters treat Catherine differently now, from her boss to the IT girl, showing she’s moved away from the spoiled rich girl playing at helping people. There’s acceptance and now they just regard her as someone who is there to get the job done.

Siege, Ep3. – Although the reveal of this episode was fairly obvious, I still really enjoyed this episode for many reasons. This is the first time they’ve dealt with some of the difficult issues that have been alluded to. Vincent is a fully grown man, but he’s emotionally stunted in some ways, and almost teenage in some of how he deals with certain feelings, because he’s never had to deal with them before. He doesn’t know what to do and doesn’t have the emotional maturity, but he does get there a lot faster than a teenager would, and with far less moping. Equally I really liked how Catherine would walk up to anyone, give them a piece of her mind, and tell the bad guys, I’m going to take you down. She wasn’t intimidated by their thinly veiled threats and even when the crunch moment came she launched herself at one thug and took him down. She was only overpowered by two more, at which point Vincent showed up. So less a damsel in distress that needed saving, more a friend who was outnumbered. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but even the old lady had a moment to shine and tell her story which gave me a chill at its conclusion. I spotted someone else making a cameo, and it was a sad one for me since the actor has since passed away. A young Rick Biggs, who to me was most famous for his role in Babylon 5, had a couple of lines as a reporter. Even before we saw the character I recognised his very distinctive voice. The show continues to surprise and entertain me and for all that it is sometimes tame in comparison to modern shows, it is refreshing in its tone and theatrical scene setting and lighting effects.

No Way Down, Ep 4. – The core of this episode was relatively simple. Vincent is injured and left effectively blind on the surface, unable to get home as he can’t see where he is going. He’s captured by some unpleasant people but he managed to escape and then has to rely on the kindness of strangers of the surface, a place he and everyone else who lives under has fled. The world above is cruel and harsh, Father has always told him this, and that he would be feared and shunned. Many people who now live under the city came there from above ground, including Father, who found it a horrible place to live. And now Vincent has to rely on others to help him while Catherine frantically searches for him with Stubbs. It was a great flip of the usual scenario you sometimes see even today in modern dramas where the girl in danger and the man comes to her rescue. Suddenly he is weak, injured and despite his strength, leaning on people to help him down the street. A kind security guard, Lucy, a street walker with a kind heart, a slow but gentle giant. There is still fear and sometimes horror at Vincent’s appearance, but people still help him. One of the most distressing moments for me was actually seeing Lucy cry after she has betrayed Vincent to save herself. Sure it was hokey in places, and the dialogue was dated, but there again Catherine took out two gangbangers herself when they tried to get cute with her, using the skills Stubbs had taught her. She is no damsel in distress. I sound like a stuck record, but I continue to be touched and impressed by this series and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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My experiences at Eastercon 2012

I’ve made the title of this post specific to me on purpose as not everyone had as enjoyable time at Eastercon 2012. I missed out on some of the controversy as I was elsewhere attending other panels or I was out to dinner at one point, but I’m sure other people will go into detail about the bad. In general though the feedback has been very good and the event was a huge success as it sold out for the first time in many years. Given that the good outweighed the bad from my point of view, I’ll start with the bad and then end on a much more positive note.

For me there were a few problems with one or two of the panelists and some of the audience members. Being specific, no matter the nature of the panel and the tagline, they were determined to make the panel about something else entirely. They sometimes asked very leading questions or irrelevant questions in an attempt to get the panel to discuss the topic they wanted. This ruined a few panels for me. The moderators valiantly tried to steer the discussion back on topic and they were successful on some occasions, but not always. One of the positives this year was the variety of panels over the four days, so there were plenty of opportunities to discuss many subjects. The organisers provided a daily opportunity for feedback and there were also opportunities before the event to submit ideas and suggestions for panels. I appreciate the programme was not posted until two weeks before the event, but even so it was still being tweaked up to the last minute. So if there was a gap they should have raised it with the organisers instead of trying to derail other panels. I found it really annoying and disrespectful that some people were so incredibly selfish and I was very disappointed by a couple of panelists for the same reason.

Moving on to the good. I managed to meet several authors whose work I admire in person and I chatted to them about all sorts of stuff from writing to archery to role playing to all sorts of nonsense. These included, Mike Shevdon, Elspeth Cooper, Suzanne McLeod (again! – *wave*), Anne Lyle and I met a bunch of shiny and new authors whose books are due out imminently. These are authors with Strange Chemistry, the YA Imprint of Angry Robot Books. I had a lovely dinner one evening with Kim Curran, Laura Lam, Natasha from Voyager, Amanda from Strange Chemistry and my mate Adrian Faulkner.

Over the course of the weekend we also invented several harmless games to keep ourselves amused including Author Cosplay and Author Wave. Adrian has all of the details about the games over on his blog here, as well as a third game Pitch! which we discussed but didn’t dare try in person. I think I was ahead by the end on Author Wave as one of the guests of honour, George RR Martin, himself waved at me. I also received confused and puzzled waves from a few other people but didn’t get any points. It was just interesting to test their memory or their eyesight to see if they were able to read my badge and then work out if they knew me after all or not.

I went to a lot more panels this year than last and even though there were some I was not interested in, I’m sure they were to some who enjoyed them, so we all had a piece of the pie. Despite contracting flu during the latter part of the event (I blame being very tired and run down, plus late nights and early mornings) I came away with a renewed sense of purpose. I said this in my previous post, some days I wake up and think every word I’ve written is awful and other days I don’t think it’s half bad. Eastercon was good for many things but it rekindled the fire in my belly and turned up the hungry dial from 9 to 10. As I said before, the final decision is not in my hands, but being knocked back isn’t going to stop me and it hasn’t stopped me this far. I should point out that my current novel is not my first, or second, or even third or fourth novel. I don’t know if you need to have written 10,000 words or a 100,000 words of crap before you get to the good. Some people make it on the first book, some after 13 years of submitting like Ian McDonald, and as John Jarrold pointed out he’s not a ‘bad little writer’. I almost didn’t go to the panel on how to get published but the new faces on the panel won me over and I was glad I did. I made copious notes, some of which I already knew, but it’s good for reinforcement and there were some interesting comments. The short version is, it’s a long-shot, it’s a crap shoot. If they don’t say wow in the first few pages they (the agent then the publisher) will say no. One audience member was struggling with his story which really kicked off in chapter 8 and the short answer again was, page 1 doesn’t have to be a murder, a car crash, an explosion. It can start slow, but it needs to be your voice, have you written all over it, be distinct and special, and it can be poetic and beautiful or blunt and visceral but it can’t just be run of the mill. Revise and revise and then revise again. Then get other people to look at it. Then give it to someone who hates you and listen to their feedback. Then revise it some more. Ok, perhaps not someone who hates you, but I’m sure you can see why. My mum will always say she likes it and is proud of me (probably) but this isn’t a competition where everyone gets an award for taking part (and what is that about! Don’t get me started) you only get one for first place.

The only person who can let you down, is you, be it because of bad grammar, punctuation, not reading the submission guidelines, printing it on red paper, or writing it by hand. They are looking for a reason to put it down, not because they are evil but simply because every day they get 30 or 50 and have to get through them because tomorrow there will be 30 more. That sounds harsh and cruel and cut-throat, but if you get all of the basics right, and they actually sit down to read your double spaced (lines not between words!) submission, then the full weight rests on your story and your style, which is what it should rest on. Also, read the genre guidelines. If they say no romance and you submit it to an agent who only does SFF, don’t think they will give you a chance because your book is special. They won’t. They don’t have time. Revise. Read. Do your research. You’ll never be 100% happy with it but be as close to 100% as you can be and don’t think, oh well cleaning it up is for the agent and the publisher to do, my job is to create Art and I don’t deal with the small details! That’s someone else’s job! Wrong. It is your job.

Anyway, coming back to the event in more general terms I had a great time. I think George RR Martin helped sell out the event, I met some great authors and had a number of very interesting discussions over drinks and dinner, and I was able to spend some time and socialise with some friends that I don’t seem more than once a year. I also met several new and interesting people. I’m not sure if I will be attending next year, it depends on so many factors, but it is closer to where I live, which does make it appealing. I’ll decide closer to the time as I did this year but I believe that despite some issues and controversy, Eastercon 2012 was a big success. I’ve definitely forgotten to mention some stuff, but it’s the end of a busy first week in a new job and I’m still brain addled with the flu, so apologies to anyone I missed. Don’t forget to wave at your author!

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